[Exclusive] Gianna Simone opens up about her journey from living under foster care to slaying on the red carpet
Gianna Simone talks candidly about growing up in foster homes and how she is still in touch with one of her 'sisters' and would like to get in touch with rest of them
Actress Gianna Simone's real-life story is nothing short of a fantastical Hollywood movie narrating the story about hope and perseverance. Simone spent her childhood going from one foster home to another, and when she turned 16, she secured a modeling job with only 12 pictures in her portfolio. As rejections became a part and parcel of her career, she was constantly told to opt for acting. At that time, she took on the advice as a "diversion" from her real goal of modeling; she did not take it seriously until she fell in love with it.
The Boston-born actress has acted in over 24 films and just last month we saw her starring in two incredible movies - 'Unbroken: Path to Redemption' and 'God Bless the Broken Road.'
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In addition to this, she is one celebrity who has aced every single red-carpet look and even got featured as the red carpet icon on Harper's Baazar and Vogue. But here's the interesting part, the inspiring actress does her own hair and make-up even when hitting A-list parties and premieres. The vegan actress does her own stunts in action films, and that's what makes her an all-rounder in true sense! For an upcoming action movie, Simone has been training intense sword fighting so that she can render her own action moves.
Simone's hard, but truly inspiring life story has touched many lives including her very own that she is grateful for all the experiences she's had. The 28-year-old actress founded the Gianna Simone Foundation inspired by her own journey in foster care. The mission of her foundation is to help provide rescue and wellness support to abused and neglected human beings and animals while also providing college scholarships to survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, Simone opened up about everything - her journey, struggle, and experience - from living under foster care to becoming a talented actress that she is today.
Your real life story is that of hope, inspiration and immense determination. What would you like to tell our readers who may be facing their own challenges and look up to you for inspiration?
I hope that my life experiences help people see that no matter where you come from, what you’ve been through or done, there’s always hope and there always another day to make good decisions. I always say that God has instilled certain desires in us and it’s our job to carry them out. Sometimes it tough and sometimes it’s easy. When we are doing what God has called us to do, there’s no better feeling in the world to me. That makes it all worthwhile. I hope that my journey of growth, positive change, determination, vision and perseverance will inspire others to go after, with heated passion, the life they have always dreamed of.
You are one of the best-dressed celebrities on the red carpet. Please tell us about your red carpet journey, your first red carpet as you recall and what inspires you to conquer every carpet you walk on?
The very first major red carpet that I attended was the world premiere of 'The Giver' in NYC. I remember walking up to the carpet from the street, a photographer turned around and photographed me. At this point I had never experienced a large red carpet before, and to have press be on you, as a guest, even before you hit the carpet, was a huge compliment. I am always grateful for every opportunity that brings me to a red carpet; it signifies respect, celebration, and everyone’s efforts finally coming together to share with the world.
In September, we saw two of your films 'Unbroken: Path to Redemption' and 'God Bless the Broken Road.' How do you feel about these two big releases in a month? What other great news did September have in store for you?
It’s quite a blissful feeling. Also a feeling of humility and gratitude; to have two films in theaters that are about hope, encouragement and most of all the love of Christ.
A few months back I was with my father during his first time seeing 'I Can Only Imagine' and the trailer for 'Unbroken: Path To Redemption' came on during the previews. He leaned over and said to me, “Gianna, I hope you know how rare it is for any actor or actress to have a trailer play for your upcoming movie while watching your current one.” To have him say that and be there during that time made it all the more special, a moment I’ll always remember and cherish; just as I will these two amazingly inspiring films being out at the same time. I’m just so grateful.
You work to make a positive change in foster homes in the country because you went through a difficult childhood and grew up in several homes. With the Gianna Simone Foundation, you have made a lot of positive impacts. Please tell us about your foundation's ultimate mission and how do you plan to achieve it?
The mission of my foundation is to provide people and animals with safety security and love. We do this a few different ways. I personally mentor girls in a level 12 facility which is a step away from prison. We also take the girls to farm sanctuaries, and have them meet and bond with abused and neglected animals that would have otherwise been slaughtered and eaten; to promote healing and trust in both parties again. It’s actually a beautiful thing to see.
We also work with sex trafficking organizations around the world to rescue sex trade victims. Lastly, we provide college scholarships to survivors of the Rwandan genocide and work directly with Kigali University.
The ultimate mission is to see people and animals be cared for, be safe, loved and respected. To see them grow and give them what they need to thrive. Time, a voice, protection, and spreading awareness. Ultimately to see foster care, the sex industry, and the meat and dairy industry no longer exist.
To help us please feel free to support and donate. We are managed by the National Christian Foundation, and 100% of all donations go towards our efforts described above.
Who inspired you to take up acting and who mentored you into the screens?
When I started out at 16, I actually only wanted to model. With a 10-12 picture portfolio, I got done with the help of my father, I would go around trying to get representation and work. I would get rejected by agencies in my pursuit, only to be told along with those rejections that I should try acting instead. So I always associated acting as a diversion to my goal of modeling. I went on to book a lot of modeling work on my own, then signed with one of the top agencies and became successful in the modeling industry. I was doing it full time, which lead me to some acting and ironically fell totally in love with it.
What is the fondest memory you recall from your childhood?
Since my parents were divorced growing up, I would get to see my father every week or so for visits and we’d go on all sorts of adventures. When Titanic came out, I was about 8-years-old, and it was my favorite movie. We must have seen it about 10 to 15 times! Movies have always been so important to me, and have definitely shaped the person I am today.
You've worked alongside the likes of Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson--who has been your favorite actor to work with and why?
It’s always so exciting to have opportunities to collaborate with other artists and learn from your peers especially ones who have such rich experience. Also, the directors I’ve worked with over the years have been so impactful on me. JJ Abrams, Gary Marshall and Harold Cronk are some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate and work with. Each experience always teaches me new things, and inspires me to grow, in one way or another, on and off screen.
In 'Unbroken: Path to Redemption,' you play the wisecracking and supportive sister of Louis Zamperini as he struggles with PTSD after the war. What was the most challenging part about playing the role and why? Do you associate yourself with the character you play?
I think playing any role where it’s portraying an actual person is of great seriousness and importance. Especially if that person has passed on and you can’t interact with them, see how they live, move, and speak- a lot of it is in your hands to create. That has a lot of responsibility to it. I always try to relate a great deal and truly understand any character I play. It feels almost like a good friend I know all about.
Is it true that you do your own stunts in the movies and do your own hair and makeup at the red carpet events?
Yes, I love being able to say this and do it! I have an action movie coming up that I’ve been training sword fighting for, and will be doing most, if not all, of my own stunts for. Yes, I always do my own makeup for red carpets. Sometimes if I’m feeling very creative, I’ll do my own hair, but most of the time I have my favorite hairstylist, Katerina Drapkin, work her magic.
Are you still in touch with the girls you grew up with in foster care homes? How are they now?
When I was in Boston, after I got out of foster care, I ran into a few of my foster sisters at various places and always loved seeing them. It was a very, very hard time in my life and I’m sure in theirs’ too. I am friends with one of them on social media and would love to find and stay connected with the others I was close with.
To connect on social media:
Instagram: @Gsimone Facebook: GiannaSimone Twitter: @GiannaSimone1.
Gianna, who is a vegan by choice, has her own YouTube channel where she interviews various plant-based doctors and leaders in the field. The Channel is called “Love, Gianna” Here's one of her latest videos: